I am a transplant to Maine, I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and as a kid I wanted nothing to do with vegetables and my favorite fruit came in the form of strawberry and grape flavored skittles. My undying love of vegetables came later in life when I discovered how good food could be when you grow and harvest it yourself. I wish that as a child my school had had a garden, not only because it might have improved my diet but also my grades. I struggled as a child sitting still in a classroom but I’ve always loved to learn and I’ve seen first hand the positive outcome hands-on learning can have for students who learn with their hands. Despite early struggles as a student, I made my way through an undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts and then a MS from Antioch New England in Environmental Education. Currently I work for University of Maine, Cooperative Extension as a Food Systems professional and I manage the FoodCorps program in Maine. I am a strong believer in the power of outdoor education and am so humbled by all the great work happening in schools across the state that are using gardens and outdoor classrooms to connect students to standards-based lessons that they can use for life.
Richard Hodges – Vice Chairperson
Richard is the Program Manager for ReTreeUS, an organization that plants educational orchards in schools, as well as the Teen Ag Coordinator at Wolfe’s Neck Farm, an educational farm in Freeport. He is a Maine native who has also lived in Vermont and California. Richard feels passionately about educating younger generations about environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. Those who know him often think of kale when his name is mentioned.
Willie Grenier – Treasurer
Willie Sawyer Grenier has worked with/and for Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) since 1998, but her passion for agriculture in mainstream education is much deeper. In college she served as a 4-H leader and President of the Horseman’s Club. After graduating from UMaine with a degree in Vocational Agriculture and certification to teach Secondary Science, she taught for several years in Maine and the Maritimes before her destiny led her to study (and then teach) the art of floristry. In 1997 she discovered AITC and soon her volunteer role emerged into a part-time position. The organization has grown every year, especially with the addition of the Agricultural License Plate in 2007. Now the MAITC program is funding grants annually, writing curriculum, training pre-service and in-service teachers, and last year impacted over 84,000 Maine school children in grades Pre K – 12. Willie is pleased to serve as Maine School Garden Network Treasurer and work closely with the coordinator to secure and manage funding to help the organization fulfill the overwhelming requests from schools across the state that are using a school garden project to teach across the curricula, while fostering stewardship, sustainability, good nutrition and more in the process!
I moved to Maine from Florida with my family in 1987 to take a job as an elementary school Guidance Counselor. My husband and I had both been involved in gardening since our early 20’s while living in rural Vermont and later, Florida. In Maine, we soon began creating and expanding vegetable and flower gardens at our new home. After the completion of a renovation project at Manchester Elementary School in 1999, I was asked to start flower gardens to beautify the front of the school. I decided to involve the students in the project and thus began a gardening program that continued and then expanded in 2009, after we received sizeable grants. The expansion included building raised beds for vegetables, a hoop house, garden shed and compost bins. I retired from my counseling position in 2013, and have continued to be actively involved in the school gardening program, teaching garden related curriculum in classrooms, taking kids outside for hand-on gardening experiences, helping to expand the vegetable gardens, trying to get more garden produce into the cafeteria, fundraising, and serving as a resource and mentor to students, staff and parents.
Michelle Erhard – Chairperson
Michelle has a passion for growing, eating, and sharing her love of food. Although she grew up helping in her family’s kitchen in New Hampshire, it wasn’t until she was an undergraduate at Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT when Michelle discovered her deep interest in food systems. She fell in love with the school’s educational farm and went on to volunteer on several organic farms before serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Saint Louis University. While in Missouri, Michelle learned about urban agriculture and the challenges of community food security. She stayed in St. Louis as the coordinator of City Greens, a nonprofit, local food market working to increase the accessibility of quality, affordable foods.
After a few years in St. Louis, Michelle was excited to return to her native New England. Set along the scenic Saco River in her year of FoodCorps service with Rippling Waters in Standish, Maine, Michelle strengthened the local school district’s garden programs, taught cooking and nutrition education, and helped grow culinary connoisseurs in the middle school Garden Club. Michelle to stay with FoodCorps in the great state of Maine as this year’s fellow. She is deepening statewide connections and providing support to the Maine service members.
Jon taught Horticulture at Medomak Valley High School for 17 years and co-founded the Heirloom Seed Project at the school. The last nine years have been spent as the Agricultural Coordinator at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. He lives in Searsmont.
Erika Verrier – MSGN Coordinator
As a Maine native, she has enjoyed gardening all her life and now shares it with her two young children. Erika is a volunteer in her community and an advocate for education and healthy food choices. She feels that it is our civic duty to teach children to grow their own food and to appreciate where it comes from. With a passion for the outdoors, she achieved her BS in Ecology at Unity College and immediately went to work initiating Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in a large commercial hydroponic greenhouse here in Maine. Her leadership and experience in IPM focused holistically from seed to fruit and allowed her the opportunity to learn and network with leading plant pathologists throughout the US. She advocated for reduce risk pesticides and alternative control methods. Her focus on risk mitigation and preventative methods has allowed her to develop a passion for biological controls and the use of beneficial insects. She hopes to share this experience with the educational gardens throughout Maine to promote a safe, sustainable and fun way to help children overcome challenges in their garden. Feel free to say hello or contact her anytime for help at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Libby – Secretary
Rebecca is the Children’s Program Coordinator at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, which means she gets to dig in the dirt and cook with kids quite often. She was born and raised in the Garden State but came to Maine for college and never left! Rebecca is happiest when she is outside, and she loves to share her excitement about growing food and taking care of the environment with all her favorite kiddos.